By Thomas Harding and George Von Benko
PITTSBURGH -- Not long ago, Josh Harrison rejoined the Pirates' lineup. On Friday night, he rejoined the team's fun by delivering a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning of a 5-3 victory over the Rockies at PNC Park in front of 32,607.
After missing 38 games with a right thumb injury and going 2-for-13 in his first six games back, Harrison stepped up as a pinch-hitter with two on and two outs to single off Scott Oberg (3-3), breaking a 3-3 tie as the National League Wild Card-leading Pirates won for the ninth time in 11 games and 13th in the last 16. Gregory Polanco, who earlier made two key throws, singled in another eighth-inning run to complete a 3-for-5, two-run night.
"An all-around outstanding ballgame," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "[Polanco] showed all the tools tonight. He's playing that wall like he's been out there a long time. The throw at home, swinging the bat. A fantastic game for Greg tonight."
The Rockies stayed in the game early with two homers -- by Jose Reyes for two runs in the fifth and Carlos Gonzalez for one in the sixth -- off Pirates starter Francisco Liriano. Tony Watson (3-1) pitched a scoreless eighth, and Mark Melancon was perfect in the ninth for his 42nd save. Although Liriano gave up three runs and four hits in six innings, the Pirates won their 11th straight game with him starting.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Polanco rifle: With one out in the eighth inning, right fielder Polanco caught a liner from Nolan Arenado and threw out Reyes at home plate, completing a double play and keeping the game tied. Polanco also cut down Nick Hundley on a single off the wall in the sixth inning. The throw went to shortstop Jordy Mercer, who got Hundley diving back to first base. More >
"That's the right play right there, Reyes -- I was glad he took off," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It took a great throw by Polanco. He was right on the money. It wasn't real deep, but certainly deep enough for Reyes to take a shot."
Lift from Reyes: Reyes has hit safely in 12 of the last 16 games. His two-run homer to the left-field foul pole in the fifth was just the second hit of the night off Liriano. Reyes entered with just two career at-bats against Liriano, but he knew what to expect -- and got it. More >
"Changeup -- I was glad to get it, up, in that situation," Reyes said. "He throws a lot of off-speed. In that situation, a man on third base, 2-0 game, I was looking for a changeup. I said, 'If he throws me a fastball here, I'm going to be in trouble.'"
The Cutch & Kang show:Andrew McCutchen's 150th career stolen base set up Jung Ho Kang's RBI single that staked the Pirates to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Kang delivered an RBI double in the third inning, knocking in Polanco. Kang now has 11 multi-RBI games this season.
"Any time you can get a chance to help the team, you want to be a part of it," Harrison said. "That's what makes it so good. It's a different guy every night. Polanco had a great night tonight. [In] Miami it was Andrew McCutchen one night, Jung Ho Kang a couple of nights. I think that's what makes us so potent, it can be anybody."
CarGo gives and takes away: Gonzalez's homer to right-center tied the game at 3 in the sixth. In the bottom of the inning, after DJ LeMahieu's dropped popup helped the Pirates load the bases with two outs against reliever Christian Bergman, Gonzalez made a sliding catch of Polanco's liner. Gonzalez said it was a good effort from the Rockies, who are 2-2 on their road trip.
"We battled, and they took advantage in the eighth inning -- walks [two by Oberg] always hurt you," Gonzalez said. "Any time that happens you end up losing the game. Nothing to complain; everybody's giving 100 percent. Pitchers don't want to throw balls."
"We're going to have better options during the course of a game than we've ever had since I've been here. It's a deep bench and just about every night we've got guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, guys to work some at-bats, steal a base. We have more options and more talent and more depth. It helps you out, there's no doubt." -- Hurdle
"It's a well-rounded team, not many holes. They can beat you a number of ways." -- Weiss
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates' two runs in the eighth inning snapped a scoreless streak of 18 2/3 innings from the Rockies' bullpen.
NO RECORD FOR ROOKIE
Rockies starter Jon Gray, on a tight pitch count five games into his big league career, gave up seven hits and three runs while throwing 89 pitches (55 strikes) in 4 1/3 innings. He also struck out six. Gray, the third overall Draft pick in 2013, has not earned a Major League decision. Gray said he second-guessed the fastball he threw to Polanco, which turned into a hustle double to lead off the fifth. Overall, Gray was pleased with his outing, realizing that he's learning lessons that will benefit him when he is on a normal pitch count.
"It'll be very exciting, and I'm looking forward to it," Gray said. "But right now I'm trying to throw as many zeros up as I can, fast."
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies: Lefty Chris Rusin, aiming to come back from giving up 11 runs in two innings against the Mets in his last start, will lead the Rockies against the Pirates on Saturday (5:05 p.m. MT).
Pirates: Lefty J.A. Happ (2-1), acquired at the Trade Deadline from Seattle, makes his fifth start for Pittsburgh on Saturday night at 7:05 ET. Happ tossed six scoreless innings in a 5-2 win over Miami on Monday. He has surrendered just one run in his last three starts.